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John Cottingham has held philosophy positions at The University of Washington, Seattle, and at Exeter College, Oxford. He was Head of Department and then Director of Research and Graduate Studies at the Philosophy Department at Reading University, where he is now Professor Emeritus of Philosophy. He is currently Professorial Research Fellow at Heythrop College, London. He is an Honorary Fellow of St John’s College, Oxford.

He has published thirty books – thirteen as sole author, a further nine editions and translations, plus (either as single or join editor) eight edited collections – together with over 115 articles or chapters in journals or books. His books include Descartes (Blackwell), The Rationalists (OUP), Philosophy and the Good Life (CUP), On the Meaning of Life (Routledge), The Spiritual Dimension (Cambridge, 2005), Cartesian Reflections (Oxford, 2008), Why Believe? (Continuum 2009), Philosophy of Religion: Towards a More Humane Approach (Cambridge, 2014), and How to Believe (Bloomsbury, 2015). He is co-editor and translator of the three-volume Cambridge edition of The Philosophical Writings of Descartes. From 1993-2012 he was editor of Ratio, the international journal of analytic philosophy. The Moral Life, a Festschrift honouring his work on moral psychology, ethics and religion,appeared in 2008.


Research interests

  • Seventeenth-century philosophy, esp. Descartes, and the Rationalists
  • Philosophy of Religion
  • Moral Philosophy

Expertise and public engagement

Media appearances include In Our Time (on Descartes, and on Spinoza), and  ‘Cosmos, Consciousness, Meaning.’ Series of PBS/TV interviews on the Philosophy of Religion with Robert Kuhn, published on the Closer to Truth website.

Selected publications

  • The Spiritual Dimension (Cambridge, 2005),
  • Cartesian Reflections (Oxford, 2008),
  • Philosophy of Religion: Towards a More Humane Approach (Cambridge, 2014),
  • How to Believe (Bloomsbury, 2015).
  • ‘What is Humane Philosophy and Why is it At Risk?’, Philosophy, Supplement 65 (2009), pp. 1-23; and A. O'Hear (ed.), Conceptions of Philosophy, Royal Institute of Philosophy series (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009).

See full list of books at: and articles at: